On 2 November, 2011 I was sitting in my office in Bucharest unable to work and following on various twitter accounts and some live news streams the latest news in Greece. My phone rang and my good friend Paulo asked me to write a small piece about what’s happening in Greece, so here we go.
The story of the day comes from the cabinet meetings and the negotiations within PASOK and with New Democracy Parties in order to move towards the next day, which is none other than the adoption of the “bailout package” offered to Greece – ie the trimming of the primary dept by 50%. This after the surprising announcement of a referendum where the people will actually be able to decide (?) their own fate. But I would like my first entry on the blog of my good friend to touch not on the news of the day, but the news of the decade. Forgive me for the bout of nostalgia, but here we go.
November 2004, Athens Greece. It’s the place to be. I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder to live here. The recent “dream Olympic games” gave birth to a complete transformation of the city. New highways, beautiful pedestrian walkways that unite the archeological centre for the first time, airports, bridges infrastructure that one could only dream of 10 or 15 years earlier became reality. Booming economic growth, something like 4% if I’m not mistaken, while the Eurozone average was less than 2. T-shirts with the Greek flag instead of the Union Jack were in style, from my flat with a great view of the Parthenon I noticed “winter tourists” who came for “weekend breaks” for the first time as far as I can remember, art houses and galleries were popping up everywhere, an air of creation and rebirth had overcome smog of the megalopolis. Heck, Greece had even won the Euro, beating Portugal twice at home :).
Five years later they told us that we’re about to go bankrupt, that we no longer have national integrity or even sovereignty for that matter regarding our internal policies. I’m trying to get my head around what’s been going on over the last two years. As long as I can remember myself, since the mid eighties, there have been voices in my country saying that we are on the verge of bankruptcy. Voices speaking about needed cuts in public services, wages and pensions. But what has happened over the last two years was a real surprise for most people in Greece. It was a shock that most people still cannot understand, find unjust and simply do not believe. The social fabric of the country is being torn apart, people are turning against one another, rioting and indiscriminately bagging all politicians and public servants in the same pile. This is not such a nice predicament, and in the next days I’ll provide my opinion on how we got here, who’s responsible and what we need to do to get back to the “golden age of modern Athens.”
(I am proud that Yannis, a good friend and attentive observer of his own society, accepted the challenge of expressing here his views on the Greek crisis. Keep an eye on his writings.)